Cheltenham Update - What we’ve learnt from the Dublin Racing Festival
Faugheen the Machine no more?
Faugheen managed second place in the Irish Champions Hurdle beaten two and a quarter lengths by the Jessica Harrington trained Supasundae. For most, this would not be cause for too much concern, but this is the horse nicknamed ‘The Machine’ who in previous years would have demolished Saturday’s field by a distance, let alone get beaten by a horse that is not even being aimed at Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle.
Admittedly, it was a far better performance than he produced at the same track over Christmas when he was pulled up after half the race, but his latest effort did nothing other than boost Buveur D’air backers that the Nicky Henderson horse will brush Faugheen aside along with the rest.
Min the Mighty
While Faugheen is on the decline, the same certainly can’t be said about Min for the same connections. He produced a superb performance in the Coral Dublin Chase comfortably running out 12 lengths winner in a race where his stamina and jumping was tested by a strong pace set by Special Tiara. Despite allowing Special Tiara to open up a massive lead, Min looked in control throughout and aided by slick jumping, comfortably reeled in the front runner. Min is expected to contest the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham against stablemate Douvan and hot favourite Altior. Based on this performance, Altior will certainly have a fight on his hands.
Already considered Ireland’s banker for the Cheltenham Festival, Samcro was sensational at the weekend. He decimated the Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle field with ease and it's very hard not to get excited about him. The Gordon Elliot trained horse has all the options at Cheltenham and based on betting, would appear most likely to contest the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, but the opening race of The Festival, the Sky Bet Supreme – over the trip of two miles – could be given more serious consideration and one which you’d expect to put the bookies on the backfoot from the off.
Total Recall bolts up
Despite a huge field, favourite Total Recall won the William Fry Handicap Hurdle for Willie Mullins. Running off a mark some 31lb lower over hurdles than his chase rating, many expected him to win - but not much went right during the race. He fought jockey Paul Townend the whole way and lost a shoe early on. However despite this, he comfortably pulled away after the last to win by three lengths.
Now a decsion will have to be made by team Mullins whether he’ll be aimed at The Timico Gold Cup at Cheltenham or The Grand National at Aintree.
Footpad romps home
Footpad made every yard of the running to come home an impressive winner of the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown. Petit Mouchoir is a very good horse, a horse that was better than Footpad over hurdles, but he couldn’t live with him over the chase fences following a four month lay off. With two to jump, and only Petit Mouchoir in touch, Townend turned up the pace on Footpad and despite clipping the final obstacle, the Willie Mullins-trained victor never looked in danger as Petit Mouchoir ploughed on for second with Any Second Now third. Footpad is now odds on favourite for the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham.